Trump now suggests Americans effectively defy stay-in-place directives from their governors despite the direct advice of Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Trump declared, “If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s keep it shut down, let’s shut down the entire world . . . and let’s keep it shut for a couple of years. We can’t do that.” Trump even acknowledged that Fauci objects. “No, he doesn’t not agree,” Trump said. Out of whole cloth, Trump invented a new claim: Continuing orders to stay at home would result in more suicides than the deaths caused by sending people out to infect others. There is zero evidence for this.
Trump’s remarks came on a day in which total U.S. fatalities exceeded 500, and in which New York’s covid-19 cases soared past 20,000, threatening to overwhelm the state’s health-care system weeks before the virus will “peak,” according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D). More governors have issued stay-in-place orders (e.g., Louisiana, New Mexico, Michigan), raising the number of states with such measures to 13. One would hope Republican governors such as Mike DeWine of Ohio, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts will join Democrats in denouncing the president’s reckless talk. (Even Trump’s right-wing populist soulmate, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, issued a stern order shutting down shops, nonessential businesses and public gatherings.)
Remember, Trump did not order anything closed; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention merely issued guidelines about social distancing. The governors have issued orders to protect their own people, measures Trump seems willing to undermine in some weird attempt to avoid blame for the economic crash over which he is now presiding.
When I said Trump is more concerned about economic numbers than human lives, I was not exaggerating. His uninformed, perhaps self-interested declaration (six of seven of his most lucrative properties have been forced to close) runs contrary to science and common sense. Tom Inglesby, head of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security tweeted out his warning, which read in part:
In last 24 hrs there've been prominent US voices calling for a stop to social distancing, citing rationale that they're worse than impact of COVID itself. It’s worth looking very closely at that claim, where we are in US COVID epidemic and what happens if we stop. 1/x— Tom Inglesby (@T_Inglesby) March 23, 2020
We don’t have capacity to diagnose many of the COVID cases that are not sick enough to be in the hospital, so those numbers aren’t counted in our national totals. 5/x— Tom Inglesby (@T_Inglesby) March 23, 2020
Inglesby explained that social distancing must be given time to work. “To drop all these measures now would be to accept that COVID [patients] will get sick in extraordinary numbers all over the country, far beyond what the US health care system could bear,” he explained. “Many models report that health care systems will be completely overwhelmed/collapse by the peak of cases if major social distancing is not put in place.”
Inglesby continued, “Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that. COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the [year] ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.” Trump’s anti-scientific assertions and encouragement to disregard scientific advice threaten the lives of thousands if not millions of Americans. But perhaps the problem is that the president simply does not care. For him, it’s always about money — primarily his.